In a world where fake news can command as much, if not more, attention than the real thing, it’s pretty hard to dispute the power of the word. But, a group of researchers in China might just be responsible for taking the power of words to a whole new level. Building on a concept first introduced in the US in the 1980s, researchers have been investigating the value of constraint-induced aphasia therapy (CIAT) in treating the speech difficulties that often follow a stroke.
CIAT focuses on verbal communication and reduces the use of nonverbal communication (such as hand gestures). Doing so re-balances the two sides of the brain and contributes to post-stroke speech recovery. Unorthodox and intense as it may seem, a patient’s hands are constrained. These customized sessions can last up to 4 hours a day for between 10 and 15 consecutive days. The results are encouraging. Five of the eight participating study centers showed the technique to be at least as effective as more conventional approaches. This finding was particularly true when CIAT began in the first 3 to 6 months following stroke.
Constraint-induced aphasia therapy was developed by the University of Alabama.
Constraint-induced therapy in practice
But you shouldn’t tie yourself in knots at home just yet. Earlier studies have indicated that success might be as much about timing as technique. Therefore, it’s important that any attempt at CIAT is under the watchful eye of a licensed therapist. And that doesn’t come cheap. At an average of $175 per hour for a home session, a cycle of 3 hours a day for 10 days could cost more than $5,000. And as an experimental therapy, your insurance company will almost certainly be reluctant to foot the bill.
So just how likely are we to see CIAT as a regular feature in the stroke clinic? In the short term, it seems the answer is ‘not that likely’, but with studies about CIAT starting to carry some real scientific weight, it might only be a matter of time before it becomes available as a post-stroke speech rehabilitation option.
The first author of the original publication is Jiaqi Zhang of the Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, Jiadan Yu, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, West China School of Medicine, Sichuan University, Sichuan, China.
This article reviews 8 clinical studies, which gives it a high scientific impact.